Over ten years ago Andrew Walls, the renowned historian and mission theologian, with whom I was studying at Princeton Theological Seminary, mentioned that one of his students had begun researching African immigrant churches in New York City. The student, according to Walls, was literally walking block by block in the city looking for these churches, of which very little was known at the time.
Lately there has been a surge of studies variously construed as focused on "religion and violence," "the Bible and violence" or "God and violence." Most of these studies are not very helpful, for they dismiss the shrill reality of violence in facile ways.
A three-day Vatican conference last month called on the Catholic Church to rethink its commitment to just war theory. The theory too often provides a justification for war, the conference’s final document says, arguing that the just war approach gets in the way of exploring nonviolent resolutions. “We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence,” the document says. Conferees said that the destructiveness of modern warfare and the effectiveness of nonviolent means of peaceful resolution have made the theory, which goes back to Augustine and Aquinas, outdated. “Jesus is our inspiration and model,” they state. “Neither passive nor weak, Jesus’ nonviolence was the power of love in action” (National Catholic Reporter, April 14).